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Lee Ransaw

Fine artist and art professor Lee Ransaw, was born on March 24, 1938, in Little Rock, Arkansas, to Sylvia and Lee Lester. In 1955, Ransaw received his high school diploma from Shortridge High School in Indianapolis, Indiana. He later attended Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana where he earned his B.A. degree in art education in 1962 and his M.A. degree in fine arts in 1966. In 1973, Ransaw received his Ed.D. degree from Illinois State University.

While Ransaw was a graduate student at Illinois State University, he travelled to Nashville, Tennessee where he met artist and scholar David Driskell. This visit inspired Ransaw to begin collecting artwork for his private art collection. After taking courses at Pratt Institute in New York, Ransaw moved to Atlanta, Georgia, where he taught African art and Afro-American art at Emory University. In 1979, Ransaw was hired at Morris Brown College as an art professor where he painted the Centennial Mural which depicted the history of the college. The mural was considered to be a national project and was commissioned by the Atlanta Coca Cola Bottling Company. In 2002, Ransaw along with Lamar Wilson, director of Ruth Hall Hodges Art Gallery, founded The National Alliance of Artists from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (NAAHBCU) on the campus of Morris Brown College. Ransaw, then dean of arts and letters, and chair of the fine art department at the college, initially held a statewide exhibit that featured the artwork of the art faculty from Georgia based HBCUs. NAAHBCU held its first major traveling exhibition entitled Visions From Within at the James Kemp Gallery at The Black Academy of Arts & Letters in Dallas, Texas and featured thirty artists. In 2004, Ransaw was hired as an adjunct art professor at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia. Ramsaw retired as president of NAAHBCU in 2010 and served as chairman of the organization.

Among his many honors and awards were The Distinguished United Negro College Fund Scholars Award in Washington, D.C., The Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, The Ford Foundation Fellowship, and a Bronze Jubilee Award for artistic achievement given by PBS in Atlanta, Georgia.

Lee Ransaw was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on April, 19, 2011.

Accession Number

A2011.026

Sex

Male

Interview Date

4/19/2011

Last Name

Ransaw

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

A.

Schools

Shortridge High School

Indiana University

Illinois State University

George Washington Carver Elementary School 87

Pulaski Elementary School

Indiana University Northwest

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Lee

Birth City, State, Country

Little Rock

HM ID

RAN09

Favorite Season

May

State

Arkansas

Favorite Vacation Destination

Southern France

Favorite Quote

Be Well, Do Good Work, And Keep In Touch.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Georgia

Birth Date

3/24/1938

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Atlanta

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Lobster

Short Description

Fine artist and art professor Lee Ransaw (1938 - ) was the dean of arts and letters and chair of the fine arts department at Morris Brown College and founder of The National Alliance of Artists from Historically Black Colleges.

Employment

Emory University

Morris Brown College

National Alliance of Artists from Historically Black Colleges

Spelman College

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Favorite Color

Purple

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Lee Ransaw's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Lee Ransaw lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Lee Ransaw describes his father's upbringing and education

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Lee Ransaw remembers his stepfather

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Lee Ransaw describes his mother's upbringing

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Lee Ransaw remembers moving to Indianapolis, Indiana

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Lee Ransaw talks about his maternal grandmother

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Lee Ransaw describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Lee Ransaw remembers living with his maternal relatives

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Lee Ransaw recalls attending East Pulaski School in Gary, Indiana

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Lee Ransaw talks about his early interest in art

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Lee Ransaw describes his earliest memories of religion

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Lee Ransaw describes his neighborhood in Gary, Indiana

Tape: 1 Story: 14 - Lee Ransaw talks about housing segregation in Indianapolis, Indiana

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Lee Ransaw recalls attending George Washington Carver Elementary School 87 in Indianapolis, Indiana

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Lee Ransaw remembers his favorite subjects in school

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Lee Ransaw recalls attending Shortridge High School in Indianapolis, Indiana

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Lee Ransaw talks about his childhood interests

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Lee Ransaw recalls attending University United Methodist Church

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Lee Ransaw describes his neighborhood in Indianapolis, Indiana

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Lee Ransaw recalls his teachers and classmates

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Lee Ransaw describes race relations in Indianapolis, Indiana

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Lee Ransaw talks about African American representation in the media

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Lee Ransaw recalls his decision to attend John Herron Art Institute

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Lee Ransaw describes his mother's family background

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Lee Ransaw recalls transferring to Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Lee Ransaw describes race relations at Indiana University

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Lee Ransaw remembers his professors at Indiana University

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Lee Ransaw describes his art education at Indiana University

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Lee Ransaw recalls his experiences at Indiana University

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Lee Ransaw remembers his appointment to cryptologic linguist in the U.S. Army

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Lee Ransaw recalls being stationed with the U.S. Army in Venice, Italy

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Lee Ransaw describes his role as a cryptologic linguist in the U.S. Army

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Lee Ransaw recalls his first teaching job

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Lee Ransaw remembers the deaths of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and President John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Lee Ransaw describes his dissertation on the Wall of Respect

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Lee Ransaw recalls his introduction to African American art

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Lee Ransaw describes his early knowledge of the black aesthetic

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Lee Ransaw talks about his dissertation committee, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Lee Ransaw talks about his dissertation committee, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Lee Ransaw describes his children

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Lee Ransaw recalls being hired at Morris Brown College in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Lee Ransaw recalls becoming department chair at Morris Brown College in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Lee Ransaw remembers receiving a fellowship from the Rockefeller Foundation

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Lee Ransaw recalls starting his art collection

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Lee Ransaw describes living and working in New York City

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Lee Ransaw talks about some of his art exhibits

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Lee Ransaw describes his improvements to the art department at Morris Brown College

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Lee Ransaw recalls painting murals for Morris Brown College

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Lee Ransaw describes his artwork, 'Dance of the Chicken Thieves'

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Lee Ransaw recalls receiving a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Lee Ransaw describes Atlanta's artistic renaissance

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Lee Ransaw talks about strategy behind collecting art

Tape: 5 Story: 12 - Lee Ransaw recalls the founding of the National Black Arts Festival

Tape: 5 Story: 13 - Lee Ransaw describes his work at Morris Brown College in the late 1980s

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Lee Ransaw talks about organizing an exhibit for the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Lee Ransaw recalls founding the National Alliance of Artists from Historically Black Colleges and Universities

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Lee Ransaw reflects upon his accomplishments and fellowships

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Lee Ransaw recalls helping Dan Moore, Sr. to establish the APEX Museum in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Lee Ransaw remembers painter Benny Andrews

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Lee Ransaw describes the exhibit 'Coming by Force: Overcoming by Choice'

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Lee Ransaw talks about his plans for the future

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Lee Ransaw describes his wife

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Lee Ransaw shares a message for future generations of artists

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Lee Ransaw reflects upon his legacy

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$2

DAStory

8$10

DATitle
Lee Ransaw recalls being stationed with the U.S. Army in Venice, Italy
Lee Ransaw recalls his decision to attend John Herron Art Institute
Transcript
So I got my assignment. Everybody got their assignments at Fort Gordon [Georgia]. Mine didn't come through. Everybody got their assignments. Some went to Vietnam and some went every place, and they didn't come to me. And they had a list of the top five or six graduates for crypto school[cryptologic school]. I was number four. The top five was supposed to go to Paris [France]. And, and four of 'em went, and I didn't go. They kept me there on post. And so I didn't know what it was, so I went to the IG, the inspector general and said, you know, "This is racism. Why didn't I get my assignment," which was a civilian status job in Paris. He said, "Well, I'm gonna look into this, we're gonna look into this and find out why you didn't get this school." So they came back with the excuse that they wanted me there on post to play basketball and play baseball. I said, "But you guys didn't know I play basketball. How you gonna put me on basketball team?" Said, "We'll cut you another assignment." So two or three weeks later--they didn't tell me where they were sending me, they put me on a plane to New York. And I ended up in New York at the fort up there, I can't remember the fort. But I went there. And they had APO 221 on my, for my mail. And so I went to the post office 'cause mother [Sylvia Hall Ransaw] and everybody was asking me, "Where are you going?" And I couldn't tell 'em. So I went to APO 221, and that was Italy. I was supposed to go to Italy, and I said, "Well, that's a pretty good assignment." But in this crypto school, which is interesting, they give you a lie detector test as I said. And on this test, they'll ask you a lot of questions, and then one of the questions they came to, they said, "Have you ever cheated on a college exam before?" I said, "No." Then they went down and asked some more questions. And they came back to that same question, "Have you ever cheated on a college--," they asked it a different way. My heart started jumping, and I remembered the time that I had looked on somebody else's paper for something, and I said, "No." So we got through the test, and he unstrapped me. He got me up, and he said, "Do you have anything to say?" I said, "Oh, yeah, on that college exam, you asked me one question, I remembered I had looked on somebody else's paper." He said, "I'm glad you told me that 'cause we were about to kick you out of school" (laughter). I was about to be gone. But I got a very nice assignment in Venice, Italy, Venezia, Italy, in crypto--and where I wanted to be. That's because it's a center of art, Venice, Venezia, Florence [Italy], Rome [Italy] and I stayed over there for several years playing basketball and finished up [U.S.] military.$$Because this is the time of Vietnam, you have this really nice assignment in Italy, but did you understand about the Vietnam War? At that time, did you understand what was going on?$$I understand--I understood when I got to Italy because several of my friends that were over there got killed. And I did crypto so Red Cross would send me messages, and I'd see their names come across. And I knew these people, a lot of these people that were getting killed over there. They were down at Fort Gordon, Fort Leonard Wood [Missouri] with me. And I knew the gravity of that situation over there, and it's just fortunate I didn't get sent over there.$$Okay, and so how long were you in Italy?$$I was there for about three years.$Who helped you prepare for college? Did you know that you were definitely gonna go to college?$$I knew a long time ago that I was gonna go to college, yes, I did. I knew. And I think my role model for that, it was interesting. I had, was out playing basketball one day with the guys on the, in the community center. And one of the guys who was playing, he was very good. And I was guarding him, and we started talking, and I said, "What do you do?" And he said, "I teach at a college." And he named the college out in California that he taught at. And I said, man, this guy plays basketball and doing real well, and he's teaching at a college, a young guy like this. You know, I think I might wanna do that, you know. And that was one of the things that got in my head early in life that I wanted to do. And the other thing, I was watching a television program. And I can't think of the actor's name, but he was, the scene of his, his series was that he was a college professor. And he used to wear a sweater all the time. And he was very mild mannered, and he spoke in a very mild mannered. And I said, "Man, that's an idea. I'd sure like to do what he's doing," you know. Well, those two things kind of stuck in my head, you know, for a long time. And I said, "Well, you know, I think I'd like to go to college," you know. And I always worked towards that at that point, you know. And then the things that I learned at Shortridge [Shortridge High School, Indianapolis, Indiana] kind of more or less cemented that desire to go and, go to college.$$How did you decide what college you would go to or apply to?$$Well, the most popular college in Indiana was Indiana University [Bloomington, Indiana]. Everybody, 'cause everybody started talking it up, kids from other areas, friends, and they wanted to go to IU. And so I was in art, and I wanted to go to IU too, but my mother [Sylvia Hall Ransaw] said, "No, you're not going down there your first year. We're gonna send you here to the extension, and you can take your art courses or take some courses over to John Herron [John Herron Art Institute; Herron School of Art and Design] or someplace like that." Well, John Herron was a very fine art school. It was located there too, in Indianapolis [Indiana]. Hale Woodruff and some of the other well known artists had gone to, had been a John Herron. So that's what I did. The first year I decided--and I worked. I went out to the, the state fair, got my first job at Allis Chalmers [Allis Chalmers Manufacturing Company], shining tractors. And I'd jump over the fence, go over there, go to work every day, and that gave me my first paycheck, all went toward college. Everything I started doing was directed toward college. So Mother could see that I was putting in and wanted to go that badly, she was gonna send me, but she wasn't gonna send me down on campus the first year. And it's a good thing she didn't because once I started going down there, I went down there, a lot of my friends who had gone down there partying and playing was coming back. They had flunked out. So when I went down, you know, I was pretty much prepared.$$And so what courses did you take at John Herron?$$I took still life painting, how to paint an apple so that if you put a fly on it, or paint a fly on it, it looks like it's real and all that stuff or one would be attracted to it. Those were the kind of courses I took, very varied (laughter). Then we'd go out sometimes and paint old sheds or old houses, draw 'em, and that was, that was very nice.

Jefferson Eugene Grigsby

Art professor, fine artist, and high school art teacher Jefferson Eugene Grigsby, Jr. was born on October 17, 1918, in Greensboro, North Carolina, to Jefferson Eugene Grigsby, Sr. and Perry Lyon Dixon. Grigsby first discovered his love for art after his family moved to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, when he was nine years old. In 1933, Grigsby attended Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, North Carolina. Within a year, Grigsby transferred to Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, where he first met his long time mentor, Hale Woodruff. Grigsby graduated from Morehouse College in 1938, with B.A. degree and because of Woodruff, he was equipped with extensive artistic experience that he would retain throughout his life. Grigsby went on to obtain his M.A. degree in art (1940) from Ohio State University and his Ph.D. degree from New York University (1963).

In 1942, Grigsby volunteered to serve in World War II and became a master sergeant of the 573rd Ordinance Ammunition Company under U.S. Army General George Patton during the Battle of the Bulge. In 1943, Grigsby married Rosalyn Thomasena Marshall, a high school biology teacher and social activist. Three years later, at the invitation of the school’s principal, W.A. Robinson, Grigsby began working at Carver High School as an art teacher. After the closing of the school in 1954, Grigsby began working at Phoenix Union High School where he remained until 1966.

In 1958, Grigsby was selected by the Museum of Modern Art in New York City to represent the United States as an art teacher at the Children’s Creative Center at the Brussels World Fair in Belgium. This experience inspired Grigsby to initiate a number of art programs in community centers, housing projects and day care centers in the Phoenix area.

Grigsby began teaching at the university level in 1966, working at the School of Art at Arizona State University until 1988. During this time, Grigsby published "Art and Ethics: Background for Teaching Youth in a Pluralistic Society," the first book ever written for art teachers by an African American artist and author.

In 2001, "The Art of Eugene Grigsby Jr.: A 65 Year Retrospective" was featured at the Phoenix Art Museum. The exhibition featured insightful commentary of Grigsby’s life and influence on the art and education world by his many colleagues, friends and family.

Grigsby served on the boards of numerous organizations, including the National Art Education Association, the Committee on Minority Concerns and Artists of the Black Community/Arizona. Grigsby has also been awarded numerous times for his outstanding work, including the Arizona Governor’s “Tostenrud” Art Award and the NAACP’s Man of the Year Award.

Grigsby lives with his wife in their Phoenix home. They have two sons, Jefferson Eugene Grigsby, III and Marshall Grigsby, who both have been recognized as educators.

Jefferson Eugene Grigsby, Jr. was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on July 11, 2007.

Jefferson Eugene Grigsby passed away on June 9, 2013.

Accession Number

A2007.204

Sex

Male

Interview Date

7/11/2007 |and| 7/13/2007

Last Name

Grigsby

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

Eugene

Schools

Second Ward High School

Morehouse College

The Ohio State University

New York University

American Artists School

École des Beaux-Arts

Search Occupation Category
First Name

J.

Birth City, State, Country

Greensboro

HM ID

GRI06

Favorite Season

Fall

State

North Carolina

Favorite Vacation Destination

Phoenix, Arizona

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Arizona

Birth Date

10/17/1918

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Phoenix

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Shrimp, Salmon

Death Date

6/9/2013

Short Description

Fine artist, art professor, and high school art teacher Jefferson Eugene Grigsby (1918 - 2013 ) was selected in 1958 by the Museum of Modern Art in New York City to represent the United States as an art teacher at the Children's Creative Center at the Brussels World Fair. Grigsby published Art and Ethics: Background for Teaching Youth in a Pluralistic Society, the first book ever written for art teachers by an African American artist and author.

Employment

Carver High School

Phoenix Union High School District

Arizona State University

Favorite Color

Purple

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Jefferson Eugene Grigsby's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby describes his mother's personality and upbringing

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby describes his father's upbringing and career

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby recalls his maternal grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby lists his siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby recalls his home life

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby talks about his grade school experiences

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby describes the community of Prairie View, Texas

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby recalls moving to Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby recalls his home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby describes his extracurricular activities

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby recalls his introduction to painting

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby remembers the Second Ward High School in Charlotte, North Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby describes Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, North Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby recalls moving to Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby remembers Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby recalls his art classes at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby remembers moving to New York City

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby talks about the Works Progress Administration

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby recalls his introduction to New York City's arts community

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby remembers Langston Hughes

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby remembers New York City's Harlem community

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby describes his studies at The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby describes his studies at The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby remembers meeting his wife

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby recalls his art residency at Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, North Carolina

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby remembers Mary McLeod Bethune

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby recalls joining the U.S. Army

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby recalls his promotions in the U.S. Army

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby remembers organizing a U.S. Army band

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby recalls his deployment to Europe during World War II

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby recalls mounting theater productions while serving in the U.S. Army

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby talks about his marriage and the start of his teaching career

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby remembers George Washington Carver High School in Phoenix, Arizona

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby recalls his art students at George Washington Carver High School

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby recalls the closure of George Washington Carver High School

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby recalls teaching at Phoenix Union High School in Phoenix, Arizona

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby remembers travelling internationally as an artist

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby describes L'Ecole Superieure des Beaux Arts in France

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby remembers his transition to teaching

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby recalls his colleagues at George Washington Carver High School in Phoenix, Arizona

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby talks about his adjustment to Phoenix Union High School

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby describes his wife's career

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby recalls his decision to pursue a Ph.D. degree

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby remembers Expo 58 in Belgium

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby recalls the African American expatriates at Expo 58

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby remembers traveling in Europe with his family

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby recalls returning home from Belgium

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby talks about his honorary doctorate in fine art

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby recalls joining the faculty of Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby describes his accomplishments as an art professor

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby remembers interviewing African American artists

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby describes his work with the National Art Education Association

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby describes his research on African art traditions

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby recalls curating an African art exhibit at the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona, pt. 1

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby recalls curating an African art exhibit at the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona, pt. 2

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby describes the black community's support of the Heard Museum

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby recalls his final years at Arizona State University

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby reflects upon the role of art competitions

Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby describes the Consortium of Black Organizations and Others for the Arts

Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby talks about his retirement from Arizona State University

Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby describes his artistic style and influences

Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby talks about aspiring African American artists

Tape: 9 Story: 6 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby talks about commercialism in art

Tape: 9 Story: 7 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby describes his hopes for the African American community

Tape: 9 Story: 8 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 9 Story: 9 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby reflects upon his role in the African American community

Tape: 10 Story: 1 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby shares a message to future generations

Tape: 10 Story: 2 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby narrates his photographs, pt. 1

Tape: 10 Story: 3 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby narrates his photographs, pt. 2

Tape: 10 Story: 4 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby remembers artist Grace Hampton

DASession

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DAStory

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DATitle
Jefferson Eugene Grigsby recalls his introduction to painting
Jefferson Eugene Grigsby remembers Expo 58 in Belgium
Transcript
When we came to Charlotte [North Carolina], I think I came in the eighth grade.$$In reading some of your history, I came across a name, Walker Foster. Does that--$$Yeah.$$Could you tell us about Walker Foster?$$Well, when we moved to Charlotte, I immediately got me a paper route and I was--it was during the Depression [Great Depression]. At that time, I was buying all my clothes and pretty much taking care of myself financially other than food and what we had at home. So, in the paper route, the people I could count on and the people who I had problems in collecting from, seemed like the teachers and the preachers were the ones I had the hardest time collecting from. Well, at that time, teachers weren't being paid and such, but prostitutes and pimps then were the ones I could--had no problems collecting from bootleggers. So, so--but Walker Foster was a, a class of his own. He was a stone mason, and he hadn't paid me in a month or more, but I knew he would pay if I could catch him. So, one morning about four o'clock as I was delivering his papers, I saw lights on at the house and I knocked on the door. When he opened the door, there was a lot of lights and paintings were all around the room. And I said, "Where did you get these paintings?" He said he painted them. I laughed. I laughed in his face because he didn't fit my preconception of what an artist should look like. Here, this guy was quite black and kind of dumpy. He, he had really dull hands from laying bricks and all. When I--my impression of a--of an artist was blonde and blue eyes and such. So he saw I didn't believe him. He said, "If you don't believe me, would you like to come and watch?" Of course. I went down and watched, and after watching him a few weeks, he asked me if I wanted to try, put a brush in my hand and that was it.$$What facilitated the move to Charlotte? Why did you all go there?$$My dad [Jefferson Eugene Grigsby, Sr.] got a job as principal of the high school [Second Ward High School, Charlotte, North Carolina]. He--it was a challenge for him because he, he had worked in a high school in Lynchburg [Virginia], but not since then. So he packed up the family and moved in several different times. He bought a--bought an old car. We didn't have a car before that, name was Essex. And one--and driving, I went with him once from Winston-Salem [North Carolina] to Charlotte and he asked me if I wanted to drive, so I did. So I was twelve years old then. So I was driving and a policeman stopped. And when he, he came up and said--he asked me, "How old are you boy?" I said, "I'm fourteen." Well, you had to be sixteen. And after, he said--told dad, "You drive this car." And when he started driving, dad said, "Why didn't you tell him you were sixteen?" I said, "I didn't wanna tell that big a lie," (laughter).$$Now, you're, you're in Charlotte. Let's--and you found this--you found mister--Mr. Foster Walker.$$Yeah.$$Now, what was your feeling aside from the fact that you saw the paintings and didn't believe that he had done them? What was your feeling about art and paintings when you saw those paintings?$$I thought they were real nice. I didn't have any, anything beyond that I don't think at that time. I didn't have a desire to paint. It was only after Walker Foster had me trying or doing some paintings, some of which I still have that I got interested in art.$$What was the feeling when you first took that first brush and started to paint and touch it to that canvas?$$(Laughter) It's weird. It's unexpected, really, as to what might happen.$$And what was his reaction when he saw you doing this?$$I think he was pleased. I think he was pleased that he had--in fact, I know, after a while he used to take pride in introducing me.$$So, at this stage, you're--approximately how old are you now, would you say you are now?$$Between twelve and thirteen, yeah.$We're gonna go back through the '50s [1950s], the end of the '50s [1950s], and were there any, any particular events in the '50s [1950s], late '50s [1950s], that are important that, that we talk about today? For instance, we do know that you did some World's Fair [Expo 58, Brussels, Belgium] things.$$That was in '58 [1958] and I think we--didn't we talk about the (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Let's go over it again just for a moment. You, you went to--where did you go?$$I went to Brussels [Belgium], and we went there and it was cold. The fair had just opened. And Victor D'Amico who was the educational director of the Museum of Modern Art and who had invited me came along in the beginning. There were three of us. I was the only one who was not on the regular staff of the Museum of Modern Art in New York [New York]. The--D'Amico had designed two rooms, one in which we brought children in and they had toys that stimulated creativity. In the next room, they had easels for painting and a big table with all kind of objects on it for construction. Well, when we got there, there were very few kids around. So I saw a teacher with about twelve kids walking through, with the boys about ten, twelve years old. So, I ran out and grabbed them and said, "Come on over here. Here's something you might be interested in." So, they came in and it was cold. They took off their coats and hung them up. And these were Flemish kids, and they ran around and they were very aggressive. I thought at once they might tear up some of the toys they had there. We had one toy that was like a piano but it--as you press the key, you got a color on a screen and you could mix colors with--and they were rambunctious with these. Finally, went into the second room and sit down to paint. And they sat down and when they sat down, they pulled the cigarettes out and started--and I said, "Well, no smoking." At that time, we were smoking and I felt like a hypocrite.$$How old were these children?$$Ten, eleven, twelve years old (laughter).$$(Laughter).$$They were Flemish kids. And when they left, one of them said to me and I--as he was putting his coat on, he said, (speaking French), "Embrassez-moi." And I said, what did you say? And he turned around and demonstrated kiss my ass (laughter).$$(Laughter).$$We had--there were three of us from the United States. There was a maid to help clean up afterwards, there was a person who went to the various schools to bring in the students, and there was a couple of other people. There was about five of us in there. And we had a number of languages covered. The--so when the kids would enter, we learned to speak to them in their language and we'd determine that by the way they dressed and the conversations they were having. So, it's, sprichst du Deutsch, it's, parlez-vous francais? Or somebody in Spanish would speak. One kid came in and sat down, I said, "You speak English?" He said, "No." "Parlez-vous francais?" "No." Sprichst du Deutsch?" "No." And I called somebody else over to ask him and I was frustrated. I said, "What in the hell do you speak?" He said, "I speak American."$$(Laughter).$$And we went to England after that and listened to some of these cockneys, and you couldn't understand what they were saying. They were speaking English. So, all those little things really helped me understand.

Kevin Cole

Art professor and mixed media artist Kevin E. Cole was born in Pine Bluff, Arkansas on January 19, 1960 to Jessie and Sam Cole, Jr. He received his B.S. degree in art education from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff in 1982; his M.A. degree in art education a year later, and his M.F.A degree in drawing from Northern Illinois University in 1984.

Cole began his art career as an art teacher at Camp Creek Middle School in College Park, Georgia in 1985. At the same time, he also became an adjunct oprofessor at Georgia State University’s School of Art and Design where he remained until 1998. In 1990, Cole was chairperson of the visual and performing arts magnet program of Tri-Cities High School in East Point, Georgia until 1994. Later, in 2003, he became the chairman of the Fine Arts Department at Westlake High School where created the school's first arts program. Cole’s artwork is well known for including imagery of neckties as symbols of power and emphasizes the relationship between color and music, particularly jazz, blues, hip-hop, and gospel. He incorporates patterns and textures from traditional African cloths to speak to human conditions and behaviors.

In 1994, Cole was commissioned by the Coca-Cola Company to create a fifteen story mural celebrating the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia. The mural took two years to create and was a little over 800 square feet. He has been featured in Who’s Who in Education and received the Award of Excellence for Public Art by the Atlanta Urban Design Commission.

Cole was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on January 15, 2007.

Accession Number

A2007.009

Sex

Male

Interview Date

1/15/2007

Last Name

Cole

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Schools

Pine Bluff High School

University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff

University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign

Northern Illinois University

Indiana Street Elementary School

Belair Middle School

Southeast Junior High School

Search Occupation Category
Speakers Bureau

Yes

Speakers Bureau Availability

Evenings, Weekends

First Name

Kevin

Birth City, State, Country

Pine Bluff

HM ID

COL12

Speakers Bureau Preferred Audience

Youth, Teens

Speakers Bureau Honorarium

Yes - $500 - $1,000

Favorite Season

Spring

Speaker Bureau Notes

Preferred Audience: Youth, Teens

State

Arkansas

Favorite Vacation Destination

Forests, Water

Favorite Quote

There's No Limit Of What A Man Can Do And Where He Can Go If It Doesn't Matter Who Gets The Credit. You Learn Through The Process Of Doing.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Georgia

Birth Date

1/19/1960

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Atlanta

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Cabbage

Short Description

Mixed media artist and art professor Kevin Cole (1960 - ) was an adjunct professor at Georgia State University's School of Art and Design until 1998. From 1992, Cole's artwork evolved from the use of the necktie as an icon, motif and symbol of power. His work emphasized the relationship between color and music, particularly jazz, blues, rap, and gospel.

Employment

Westlake High School

North Springs Charter High School

Georgia State University

Tri-Cities High School

Favorite Color

Brown

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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Kevin Cole's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Kevin Cole lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Kevin Cole describes his paternal grandfather, Sam Cole, Sr.

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Kevin Cole describes his maternal grandmother

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Kevin Cole describes his father

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Kevin Cole talks about his father's education and military career

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Sam Cole describes his mother's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Kevin Cole describes his mother's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Kevin Cole describes lessons from his mother

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Sam Cole describes how his mother and father met

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Kevin Cole lists his siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Kevin Cole talks about growing up in Pine Bluff, Arkansas

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Sam Cole describes Pine Bluff, Arkansas

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Sam Cole talks about his daily life as a child

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Sam Cole describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Sam Cole describes his experience at Indiana Street Elementary School

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Sam Cole remembers discovering his talent for art

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Kevin Cole describes his experience at the integrated Belair Middle School

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Kevin Cole describes his parents' political views

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Kevin Cole describes his education at Belair Middle School in Pine Bluff

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Kevin Cole describes growing up on the east side of Pine Bluff, Arkansas

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Kevin Cole remembers Southeast Junior High School in Pine Bluff

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Kevin Cole describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Kevin Cole remembers his early mentors

Tape: 2 Story: 13 - Kevin Cole describes his experience at Pine Bluff High School

Tape: 2 Story: 14 - Kevin Cole recalls his mentors at University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff

Tape: 2 Story: 15 - Kevin Cole talks about his artistic mentors' awards

Tape: 2 Story: 16 - Kevin Cole describes how his artwork developed in college

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Kevin Cole lists his art professors at University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Kevin Cole describes his experience pledging Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Kevin Cole talks about Halima Taha's book

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Kevin Cole recalls racial discrimination at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Kevin Cole describes his artistic process at graduate school

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Kevin Cole describes pursuing his Master of Fine Arts degree [MFA]

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Kevin Cole talks about his experience as an African American artist

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Kevin Cole talks about racial discrimination in the art world

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Kevin Cole talks about his student, Kara Walker

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Kevin Cole talks about artists he admires

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Kevin Cole remember his early teaching career

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Kevin Cole recalls his commission to create a mural at Atlanta City Hall

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Kevin Cole describes the visual performing arts magnet program at Tri-Cities High School

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Kevin Cole talks about his art made from bent wood

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Kevin Cole recalls being commissioned for the 1996 Summer Olympics

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Kevin Cole talks about collaborating on the 1996 Summer Olympics mural

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Kevin Cole describes his career after painting the 1996 Summer Olympics mural

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Kevin Cole talks about his future career plans

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Kevin Cole talks about other artists that he admires

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Kevin Cole describes the subjects of his recent work

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Kevin Cole shares a message for future generations

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Kevin Cole describes his concerns for the African American community

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Kevin Cole talks about the importance of art education

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Kevin Cole describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Kevin Cole lists some of the proprietors of his art

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Kevin Cole talks about his children, Skylar Cole and Nia Cole

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Kevin Cole narrates his photographs

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DATitle
Kevin Cole recalls his mentors at University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff
Kevin Cole recalls being commissioned for the 1996 Summer Olympics
Transcript
So, you decide to go to work--to college, and tell me about your first experience when you get, get to college.$$Well, okay. When I decided to attend University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff [Pine Bluff, Arkansas], I went out for an interview and I talked to this guy. His name was John--the late John Howard, and I know there were a lot of people trying to become artists at Pine Bluff. And Mr. Howard, he took me around and I had these drawings and took me around to all the faculty, and Ernest Davidson, the--'cause I was doing sculpture, Ernest Davidson was the sculpture teacher. He just died recently. And then there was--[HistoryMaker] Henri Linton was on leave. The one that stood--that stood out to me the most was this guy named Tarrance Corbin, guy about maybe 5'6", 5'7". And everybody was ranting and raving over my portfolio. I took my portfolio to him. He looked at it, he said, "It's typical seventeen-year-old work." I got outside, I said, "You know what? That little short man, he think he bad," (laughter). And he became my--he--he's still--he--I'm his--I'm his godson. We, we talk--we talk every--we talk at least three times a week. I never knew he would be that mentor for me. And I always say when my career has gone--I've, I've always had good, good, good mentors. Ernest Davidson, who recently just passed away, he was the one that, that--he was that calm part of it, for me. And Ernest--and, and so that's why if you notice, I do paint and sculptures because I would've been torn between painting and sculpture. So my--I do paint, paint and sculpture or I'm doing metal now. And the late John Howard was the one that got me involved in, in like--in like education. And I always would wonder about Mr. Howard. I'm like--I'll never--I'll never forget, I had a painting class--well, at that time, Mr. Howard--in 1980, Mr. Howard, he was--he, he had gotten old. Whenever you would ask him to come upstairs to look at your painting, he'll tell you he couldn't come up to look at your painting, but--so, you had to bring your painting down for him, him to see, all right. And I would do at a time. He said, you have a nice painting. But then, you see Mr. Howard in the hallway, he'd tell you, "Cole [HistoryMaker Kevin Cole], nice painting you got upstairs." I'm like, "How'd you get upstairs?" "'Cause you never bring it up." And I'll, I'll never forget taking a class with him, and taking a class with Mr. Howard, and in my painting class with him, Mr. Howard, he would beat me up. I had the best painting in the class, he would just beat me up, I mean, tear me up. So this girl named--her name was Dorothy Deportes [ph.]. Dorothy was doing these folk-type paintings. They were real stylized and, and Dorothy would get a A and I'd get a B. "Mr. Howard, but Dorothy can't paint, worth a shit," I would say--but, you know, I would--I would say to myself. So, then at the end of the semester, he said, "You know what? I knew what to say to you. I knew you would always rise to the occasion. You always rise. Even though Dorothy couldn't paint, I had to make Dorothy feel good, like she could." But in my mind, seventeen years old, Dorothy can't paint, okay. I understand what he was trying to do, but his whole thing was, you know, "At the end--at the end of the day, I always wanted to make sure that you would always--I wanted to know each one of my students--." Then--and then I asked, I said, "Mr. Howard, why is it everybody want, want to come to Arkansas Pine Bluff?" He said, "You know what, 'cause--because I know all my people. You gotta know all your students. You gotta know what they're capable of doing, what they're not capable of doing at the end of the day." So I--that philosophy stayed with me as, as I teach. I always trying to build--I'm always trying to build whoever I can up but then push whoever I can on the--on the side, say, "Okay, this is where you can be and this is what you can be."$$Okay. So you had some great mentors--$$Oh--$$--your first year of college. Now, this was in 1978 'cause you graduated from high school [Pine Bluff High School, Pine Bluff, Arkansas]--$$Yeah, in--$$--in--$$Yeah, I graduated in '78 [1978].$$--nineteen seventy-eight [1978], and you went straight to college.$$I went straight to college. I went to--and then--and then another mentor, like Henri, Henri, Henri Linton who's still the chairman of the department. And, and we've talked to--and we've talked--we've talked about me coming back and being chairman but I don't think I'm, I'm gonna do that. But he was the one--he's one of the ones that stayed with me until the end and, and made you work. It was just it. I mean, he'd tell you to work all day, work all night, always be--always be prepared, always be better. And I think with him and Tarrance Corbin, a lot of commissions I've got--you know, commission of Michael Jordan, commission for the Olympics [1996 Summer Olympics, Atlanta, Georgia]. See, I learned--I learned how to do murals when I--when I was seventeen years old. I was working as an apprentice for Tarrance Corbin and doing things, things for him, washing out paint brushes, blocking in shapes, so that was easy for me.$So, what happens--you, you were at Tri-City [Tri-Cities High School, East Point, Georgia] from--$$From 1990--$$Ninety [1990] to ninety-four [1994].$$--to '94 [1994]. Well, in 1994, and then I was represented by the, the, the McIntosh Gallery here, here in Atlanta [Georgia], which I always tell the story that she, she, she had some of the top African American artists in the country. She gave Romare Bearden his first show. She gave Benny Andrews his first one and gave John Scott [John T. Scott]. And I was represented by her. And when, when the--when The Coca-Cola Company [Atlanta, Georgia] became official sponsor of the Olympics [1996 Summer Olympics, Atlanta, Georgia], they kept asking, who's able to do large scale pieces of artwork? My name kept coming up. And another guy knew her from Coke, said, you know what? Her name is Louisa [Louisa McIntosh Edwards], Louisa, can we talk to this guy? They came over and they--and they talked to me about, about, about, you know, about they wanted to do. And they told me the artists they looked at. So, she and I talked. I said, well, you know what? I think that they are just interviewing me as a part of the process because--and, and, and because I'm black. So I went on, I started to do--I said, well, you know, I really wanna--I really wanna do something for the Olympics. And how you do a 15 story mural, you never touch the wall, they give you what you ask for, and I came in, I, I--my--I said, I, I know what I'm gonna do. I'm gonna do it on--I'm gonna do it on a--I'm gonna do it on like a vinyl, came in with my presentation. I said, gentleman, how many days you--well, you gotta look at it--now, if you want somebody to get this mural done by the time of the Olympics, how many days--I'm looking at how many days it rained from 1990 'til 1994, how many days it was over 40 degrees, how many days it was under 80 degrees, how many days it snowed, how many miles an hour that the wind is going one way. If a person is trying to paint this on a wall that--on a scaffold painting, they would never get it done. Let me--let me introduce you to a vinyl. The vinyl lasts, lasts between seven and ten years. It'll be--it'll be done in sections. I found a company, company that can install it in. I want this, I want this, I want this. I'm gonna use this, I'm gonna use this, I'm gonna use that. I also wanna hire five of my former students, part of the deal, and if you look in the--look in the lower right-hand corner, everything is copyrighted. I would love to hear from you soon. I got the project.$$Wow. And where does this mural hang?$$It was on the side of, of--it was on the side of a building called Carter Hall, which was the dormitory for Clark Atlanta University [Atlanta, Georgia] students, Georgia State [Georgia State University, Atlanta, Georgia] students. And it took two years, six months, seventeen days, fourteen hours, and thirty-two minutes. I kept a diary on it. It was--it was--it was one them--one of them--matter of fact, the--it, it was--it was 8200 square feet, bigger than the Sistine Chapel [Apostolic Palace, Vatican City] and which was--which was 7700 square feet, okay? It was one of the largest single-hand projects for any Olympics done, but it was done with the input of the community, whereas the idea was to, to paint the unsung heroes. Then, I used some of my former students. I brought in two artists from the community who I knew to just give them the experience of doing it.